5 Simple Rules of BYO

With more and more consumers reluctant to pay the high markups that are inherent to many wine lists, BYO has become more prevalent than ever. Restaurants tend to mark up wines anywhere from 2-4 times the retail price that you will find at your local wine shop, not to mention the mark up from their cost. While the convenience and selection is well worth the price to some, others prefer to select from their own collection then the restaurant’s wine cellar. Below are 5 simple rules to help determine the appropriate scenario to bring your own bottle and some guidelines for restaurant etiquette if you choose to do so.

  • Free is for me! – If there is no corkage fee, than there is no reason NOT to bring your own bottle. Even if restaurants charge a nominal (under $10) corkage fee it still makes all the sense in the world. You could choose to bring a moderately priced bottle and it will still be a lot less at your local wine shop then at the restaurant.
  • Big names = Big Corkage Fees – If you are going to a top tier steakhouse or a popular French bistro, you are probably looking at a corkage fee of $35-75. For these eateries you’re probably better off sticking with their wine list.
  • Make it worthwhile – You certainly could bring an inexpensive bottle, but that would defeat the purpose. Mark ups are typically higher on the reserve selection wines, especially from older vintages, so the better bottle you bring the more you are saving.
  • Tip on the service – The server should provide the same service on the bottle of wine whether it is purchased from the restaurant or not, so be sure to include something in the tip for that bottle. A good rule of thumb is to multiply the retail cost of the wine times 2 or 3 and add that to the total bill before calculating the tip.
  • Buy an additional bottle from the wine list – If you’re dining with a large group, doing this shows you appreciate their hospitality and would like to thank them for it…that is of course if you are enjoying the meal and the experience!

 

Cheers!

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Lots to Like About Restaurant North in Armonk

This past weekend was my 39th birthday. To celebrate my final year in the 30s my wife and I decided to go to Restaurant North in Armonk. With a 2 year and 3 month old at home, evenings out are few and far between for us right now, so this was a nice little treat. Established by former Tavern (Garrison) and Union Square Cafe (NYC) alumni, Restaurant North has a farm-to-table motif and has received glowing reviews from critics and consumers alike. I have heard great things from friends and colleagues as well, so it seemed worth giving it a shot.

Instead of writing a lengthy, and possibly somewhat witty, review of the restaurant I thought a chart may be a little more succinct. Below is a list of pros and cons about Restaurant North, with a lot more pros than cons.

Why you should go….
Why you should go elsewhere…
BYO for your first bottle of wine, no corkage! * But you must purchase off their wine list after first bottle. Still a great feature. They take the bottle you bring to the back of the restaurant to open and breathe before serving…I prefer it left on the table.
Lively atmosphere with lots of energy without feeling pretentious. A bit heavy on the salt, almost everything was a little over seasoned.
Menu varies weekly depending on what they have coming in from local farms, lots of selection. Chicken was so salty that had to be sent back, chef bought out another chicken with a little bit of attitude.
Attentive and knowledgeable staff. Dessert was just eh…disappointing.
Super fresh food with a creative menu, yet approachable to a non-foodie.
High quality stemware for wine service.
Prices very fair for a top quality Westchester restaurant.
Nice pace of service, never felt rushed and never had to wait too long.
A complimentary muffin-to-go for your breakfast… nice touch!

So as you can see the “why you should go…” side clearly wins out here as overall it was really a pleasurable dining experience. I wouldn’t say it’s my new favorite restaurant in Westchester, but I would certainly be inclined to go back. The nice part is with apps and flatbreads in the $10-16 range and pastas in the $13-20 range, you can bring a bottle with no corkage fee and enjoy a high quality meal for around $50-60. That’s tough to beat in this neck of  the woods.

So if you’re looking for a solid meal out in the Armonk area, I would certainly recommend trying Restaurant North. But if you are sensitive to salt you may want to ask the server if they can lay off some of the salt in the food preparation, which they are more than willing to do.

Cheers!